The Growing Popularity Of Meditation

Stress levels everywhere are soaring. Busy schedules, financial woes and constant communication has limited our ability to simply relax and unwind.

Our mind works in ways we will never understand. More importantly, think of when your best ideas come to you, it happens when you are not trying to solve problems. It usually happens when you are relaxed, on vacation, or sleeping.

These days everyone from Steve Jobs to Madonna meditate to improve their overall well-being. Shouldn't you?

Whichever meditation method you choose or the frequency you practice, meditation will provide you with a natural source of energy and stress relief.

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What is meditationWhat Is Meditation?

Meditation is a relaxation technique that has been around for thousands of years. While it has been more formalized as a spiritual discipline in the East, in recent years thousands of people have been using it in the West as a method to reduce stress levels and maintain mental focus.

Meditation is a focused contemplation and relaxation of the mind and body that promotes inner awareness and reduces stress. While many people do use meditation as part of their religious practices and prayers, it can be used without any mystical attachment as yet another tool in the arsenal against stress.

History
The first literature to mention meditation was the Rig Veda, the earliest recorded literature of northern India, which was composed around 1000 BC. It mentions the ecstasy that is achieved through meditation, but no formal techniques. The founder of Buddhism, Siddhartha Gautama, achieved enlightenment while meditating under a bodhi tree around 500 BC. The history of meditation may be rooted in religious and spiritual movements, but this doesn't make a practitioner of meditation an automatic adherent to any one of these religions

Taoism
The first written evidence of formalized meditation appeared in the fifth century BC in the Taoist work, the Tao Teh Ching. This text, still in wide circulation today, emphasizes breath control and presents meditation as a skill to be acquired in stages. The final goal of Taoist meditation involves "fetal breathing", in which one breathes without inhaling or exhaling.

Hinduism and Yoga
Most of the meditative techniques in practice today in Yoga come from a highly creative period in Hinduism as a response to Buddhism between 200 BC and AD 200-400. These techniques and the psychology of meditation are mentioned in the Hindu texts called the Upanishads.

Buddhism
The most detailed Buddhist meditation guide is the Visuddhimagga (Path of Purification). This text is a guidebook to meditation and includes how to prepare the surroundings for meditation, specific meditative states, and the consequences of reaching nirvana. Specifically, the text recommends fixing the mind on a single object to assist with focus. The student uses this focus to master meditation to where they reach eight jhanas, or states of absorption. The master meditator, in Buddhism, reaches nirvana for longer successive periods by burning away ego and desires. This path of meditation can allow the adherent to become an awakened being, or arahant, who is freed from the wheel of rebirth.

Christianity
The very first Christian monks of the fourth century were hermits who lived in the Egyptian desert. They used to meditate on top of stone pillars in the desert in order to purify their bodies and become closer to God. They were called the Desert Fathers, and instead of mantras they used phrases from the Scriptures.

In the Catholic tradition, the path to God is through purification, asceticism, prayer, and contemplation, most of which are meditative techniques.

Judaism
Judaism also features contemplative techniques in its worship, but it has a sect who call themselves practitioners of the Kabbalah, who practice meditative techniques specifically. Many of their exercises are built upon those of the Eastern religions.

Islam
Sufism is a mystic sect of Islam in which meditative techniques are also practiced. Ritualized dhikr ceremonies, or sema, often feature some kind of meditation.

Modern Day Western Practice

Yoga is the most widely practiced form of meditation in North America, with many practitioners taking part in classes and at-home exercises in order to realize the fitness and stress reduction benefits. Yoga became popular in the sixties through the hippie or counterculture movement's fascination with Eastern religion and "tuning in and turning on".

"Yoga" is a Sanskrit word derived from the root "yuj", which means to harness horses to a chariot. Through Yoga, the practitioner is taking conscious control of their bodies in order to relax them. Yoga is experiential and often anti-intellectual. Unlike Buddhist techniques where one is supposed to focus on a particular object or thing, Yoga instead encourages practitioners to relax and let go in order to relax the mind and capture the true essence of the self.

Hatha Yoga is specifically the most popular Western form of Yoga. In Hatha Yoga, one practices thousands of postures known as asanas. Other forms of yoga are centred around spiritual and intellectual focus. Mantra Yoga, for example, is the path of sacred sound through the use of mantras, a technique that is also frequently used in yogic meditation.

Tibetan yoga takes the practice even further as a method to cure illness, prepare oneself for death, and recall dreams.

Guided MeditationPhysical Benefits of Meditation
Meditation is being increasingly used hand-in-hand with Western medicine to alleviate chronic pain, reduce stress, and for its psychological benefits. While there have not been any conclusive studies into the efficacy of meditation, it can be argued that it is simply not possible to quantify the benefits of such an internal practice. Practitioners of meditation often ascribe massive benefits to the practice, including a healthier emotional life, ability to deal with everyday stress, and a deeper mind/body connection.

Breath control is a huge part of meditation and as such meditation has been shown to produce lasting benefits for asthmatics or anyone else who suffers from a respiratory illness. Western doctors are beginning to advise patients with respiratory issues to follow a regular course of meditation with breath control exercises. In essence, meditation can help those who have trouble breathing to re-learn how to breathe properly.

Guided Meditation
Beginners who are just getting into the practice of meditation often find it easier to use the assistance of a teacher or audio recordings in order to follow along to something during the course of a meditation. Simply performing one hour of guided meditation per week can have huge effects on your breath control, fitness level, and general emotional wellbeing.

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Frequently Ohmed Questions

Is Meditation a Religious or Occult Practice?
While many religions use meditation as a method of prayer, devotion, and spiritual searching, western Meditation practices have been developed to be entirely non-religious. You may hear the Hindu blessing "Namaste" used by various different Yoga instructors, but this is merely a tip of the hat to the origins of meditation and by no means a religious practice. Remember that the first Christian monks, the Desert Fathers, used meditation as part of their religious devotionals.

Will Meditation Help Me With Anger Management and/or Depression?
Experts say definitely. This reporter for a British newspaper agrees; read her story if you are interested in using meditation as an anger management tool. According to her article, recent studies suggest a 48% decrease in depressive symptoms among practitioners of transcendental meditation™. Meditation is a drug-free way to get a handle on your inner emotional turbulence.

Will Meditation Help Me With Stress?
If you can take just a few minutes out of your day to meditate, you will greatly reduce your stress levels. Ten minutes in the morning or at lunch is all you need to calm your mind for a hectic day of work. You will find that you have greater focus, less stress and increased productivity.

Do I Need Special Clothes to Meditate?
You don't need any special clothes or workout gear to meditate. You can perform your guided meditations in your shower, bathtub, or regular workday clothes using just your iPod to help you.

Can I Meditate Without Looking Weird to My Colleagues?
You don't need to assume special postures with 1 Hour Guided Meditation, you can do it all sitting in your chair at your desk. If you can meditate in more serene surroundings than an office, it is recommended, but not necessary.

Do I Need to Meditate for 1 Hour?
Absolutely not. You can just do the first five, ten, or twenty minutes of the 1 Hour Guided Meditation; whatever you are most comfortable with.

What is the Best Time of Day to Meditate?
Most agree that early morning, before the day begins and your mind is cluttered with obligations, is the best time to meditate. You will realize the benefits of meditation if you meditate at any time of day, so don't worry if you miss a morning window. With 1 Hour Guided Meditation's audio program, you can meditate anywhere, anytime.

What are the Physical Benefits of Meditation?
While the benefits change from person to person depending on the frequency of meditation, benefits include reduced blood pressure, lowered pulse rate, and increased metabolism.

Do I Need a Teacher to Meditate?
No. All you need is our 1 Hour Guided Meditation audio recording, put together by a professional yoga instructor. Teachers are for more advanced meditation techniques than you would be employing as a beginner.

I Feel Soreness After Meditating; What's That All About?
Chances are good you were feeling the soreness before you meditated. Meditation brings an increased awareness of the body. Keep a meditation diary if you are doing it on a regular basis and note any soreness that is repeated in a particular spot; then bring it up with your physician or other medical professional.

Why Guided Meditation over Meditating to Music?
If you are a beginner, guided meditation helps you to focus your mind on the various muscle groups and areas of your body in order to relax them. Meditating to music may help to calm you, but you won't be making the most of your time if you are just going it alone.

Where Can I Go for More Advanced Resources?
TheTranscendental Meditation™ website contains a long list of resources, studies and facts, including studies from the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, and the National Institutes of Health.

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Meditation Techniques

While the following describe standard meditation techniques, all you need to meditate is an iPod and a few minutes per day. That being said, some of the techniques listed below will help you to focus and achieve the benefits of meditation.

Muscular and Mental Relaxation
Most Western meditation focuses on relaxing the mind and the body. One starts off by relaxing the body, and then moves on to relax the mind. One usually moves mentally through each muscle group, relaxing them one at a time, and finally returning to the mind to relax the thought processes. This simple yet vital exercise is at the root of the 1 Hour Guided Meditation Technique.

Physical Postures for Meditation
Yoga has given us thousands of different physical postures for effective meditation and stretching, which are called asanas. These are just a couple of the more popular ones.

Lotus Position
The most famous of the asanas, this involves the adherent placing their feet on the opposite thigh while cross legged. The position gives physical stability while encouraging deep breathing. This pose is the best pose for extended meditation, and is a great pose to master while listening to 1 Hour Guided Meditation.

Tree Pose
This pose is a basic pose that has the adherent standing on one foot with the other foot on the inner thigh of the opposing leg. This pose stretches the spine, improves balance and tones the leg.

Concentration on an Object
In Buddhism, the person meditating focuses on a particular idea or object in order to maintain a sense of focus. This form of meditation is more about mental focus than it is about physical relaxation, but any form of meditation has benefits. Some religions, such as Catholicism, use beads as a meditative focus for prayer.

This technique requires quiet surroundings and a lack of disruption. Focus on a simple object such as bowl of water or the plain cover of a book. This will allow you to empty your mind of all distractions and focus on your goal.

This exercise is especially effective if you are trying to break a creative logjam or come up with a solution to a problem. Think about it by not thinking about it and give yourself a whole new perspective.

Mantras
These are sacred names and symbols used in meditation. While they are traditionally Hindu or Buddhist terms, deity and other names from Christianity, Judaism and Islam are also invoked as mantras for meditation.

The most common mantra that Western practitioners are familiar with is "Om". This is the most sacred Hindu mantra, which represents the Supreme Reality, or the sound from which the universe was created. Many popular mantras incorporate this powerful word. The Krishna sect of Hindusim is characterized by its "Hare Krishna" mantra, which is sung loudly by its devotees.

Mantras may be used verbally, semi-verbally, or silently. The semi-verbal mantra is one in which the vocal chords are vibrated, but no sound is heard.

Breath Control
Breath Control, or Pranayama, is a method used to relax the body through beginning and arresting the breath. "Pranayama" is a Sanskrit word meaning to restrict the prana or breath. There are various techniques for breath control used throughout different meditative school, but the Hindu one is the most used in Western meditation. Breath control encourages complete use of the lungs; those with respiratory problems tend to engage in "high breathing", which doesn't allow air to reach the alveoli or deep in the lungs.

The "Complete Breath" uses "Low Breathing" and "Middle Breathing" in addition to "High Breathing" in order to utilize the entirety of the lungs and diaphragm. Once one masters breath control, one will be able to even expand the lungs to use more than you would in traditional, non-yogic breathing.

Guided Meditation
Would you fly without a pilot? If you are a beginner, don't consider meditating without an audio recording. Our 1 Hour Guided Meditation audio recording was recorded by an experienced yoga practitioner and will walk you through everything you need to do.

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